My Stooped Pieces

Furniture I've found on the street

One of my favorite things about New York City is the way in which furniture pieces find their ways into new lives after being discarded on the street. Given the density and high turnover of residents, the phenomenon of furniture left on stoops emerges. Moving to a new apartment in the city is a hassle; paying for movers is expensive, moving yourself in a uhaul is arduous, and the new space may not even fit everything you have. The rise of Ikea and ‘disposable’ cheap furniture makes it easier to throw pieces away rather than go through the hassle of moving them to a new cramped space.

While the factors of cheap furniture, high turnover, and density in New York have created a wasteful system of accepted disposability and convenience, the secondary emergent system of ‘stooping’ is a classic “one person’s trash, another’s treasure.” Entire instagram accounts with hundreds of thousand of followers like Stooping NYC are dedicated to ‘Stooping Finds’ and ‘Stooping Successes.’ Stories and pictures of New Yorkers transporting huge cupboards on skateboards, towing tables on top of citi bikes, and siting in upholstered armchairs in the subway are commonplace. The excitement over ‘garbage’ is evident in the disappointed comments of “it’s gone :(“ on one end and the elated excitement of those who were able to score their ‘first stoop!’ on the other.

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The alarmingly perfect fit in new homes makes one reconsider the value we put on disposable objects. How could one person’s garbage fit perfectly into another person’s life? How could something seen as a burden and hassle to one person be seen as treasure to someone else 5 minutes later? Perhaps we need to consider the dynamic meaning of things. Is an object’s meaning more tied to its static relationship with one individual, or fluid relationship with many?

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Below are a few of my stoops from living two years in the city:

Mahjong Table

I was walking home one night when I saw the mahjong table on the sidewalk. At first, I didn’t think it was worth grabbing. But after doing another double take, I realized that the torn dirty table surface could easily be replaced with something else. Furthermore, the legs and wooden pieces were perfectly intact. After a deep scrub, I had to do more work to make this piece usable; taking it apart and relining the top with a nice leather. I love having a foldable table in my limited Manhattan apartment.

Eames Knockoff Chair

After several months of missing out of stoop sitting furniture posts that I missed out on, I couldn’t believe my lucky when I found this on my street in the middle of the day. With no damage, I wondered if I was allowed to even take it. But after giving it a double take, I quickly snatched it up. With a quick scrub to get rid of scuffs on the white seat, it was good as new.

The Metal Mirror

I again found this piece walking around a night. Furthermore, it was another double take; I questioned if I even had permission to take it and trying to quickly think about where I could put it. At this point, I had lived without a full length mirror for months and the allure overruled the concern for carrying it back a few blocks. I was lucky to have a friend with me who helped me move it back into the building and graciously sweated it up the winding staircase up to my 5th floor apartment.

The Coffee Table

Writing this has made me realize that double taking and initial doubt is a part of every stoop that I’ve gotten. I walked by this piece during the day time on my way to the local bakery around the corner. The leg assembly was falling apart but it looked otherwise intact. On my way back from the bakery, I snatched it despite knowing that I would move in a few months and would need to move yet another item. After a scrub down and re-gluing the legs, it was good to go.

The Ikea Cart

This was my only early morning stoop. I was walking to my early 7am Physical Therapy appointment when I passed this intact cart on my way. Since I already had a similar cart and was on my way to the doctor’s, I told myself that if it was still there on my way back that I would grab it. Sure enough, even after an hour, it was still there.

We often center ourselves in relation to the objects around us. We think that once an object has outlived its value to us that it ceases to exist. We don’t think about the narratives and histories behind seemingly ordinary objects, the journeys they took to miraculously make their way into our lives, and the mystery of what life will they occupy next.